It's getting to be Spring, so your goats are getting out of the barn more often to graze - or more likely to stuff themselves on fresh greenery. This presents a series of potential problems for both the goat and her owner/keeper. There is always the possibility that an animal will eat too much of the fresh greens and become ill. Even grass can pose a problem if too much is consumed too quickly. There is such a malady as grass founder. The animal eats too much fresh green grass and may become lame or reluctant to move. The goat may have a fever and the feet will be hot to the touch. If this should occur, contact your veterinarian. She will initiate treatment, which may include antihisimines and cortecosteroids. Later, aspirin may be administered and the feet may be soaked in cool water. The hooves should be trimmed frequently and vigorously to prevent chronic founder.
More frequently, however, the problem comes from the consumption of a poisonous plant. The degree of toxicity depends upon a number of factors, including the age and weight of the animal, the amount of poison ingested (in relation to total stomach contents), the body chemistry of the specific animal (susceptibility), and the type of plant, among other factors. A few of the symptoms you may observe are bloat, bleating, diarrhea, labored breathing, frothing at the mouth, vomiting, and staggering. If you should see any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately. Try to ascertain which plant was the "culprit", and of course , remove the plant. Keep samples to aid in the diagnosis. We have been fortunate here at Alchemy Acres and have never had a case of acute, severe poisoning. The few mild cases we have experienced were treated by giving the animal large doses of milk of magnesia. The best treatment, however, is to remove any poisonous plants before the animal is allowed in close proximity to the offensive greenery. A list of a few of the more common poisonous plants follows:
The best course of action is to know the vegetation where your animals graze. Feed your animals well on grain and hay before turning them out on fresh greenery. If they're not "starving", they won't pig out on the greenery. This may also act to, in effect, dilute the poison if they do get into something dangerous. It also helps if you have a "grizzled" old herd queen who knows what to eat and what to avoid. She will then pass this invaluable knowledge along to the younger members of your crew. It might be prudent to consider every plant suspect except for the greenery and chow you KNOW to be safe.
And on this happy note, I'm going to sign off for the month. Next time, I'll cover grooming your animals for show and for health.